The Door, Birmingham REP, Thursday 15th May 2014
The Number 11 is a bus that takes a circular route around outer Birmingham and is the setting for Rachel De-Lahey’s new piece – well, the people who use the bus or live on the route, which forms a metaphor for their lives and perhaps all our lives.
The play kicks off with an explosive monologue as loud-mouthed Malachi brags into his phone in a bid to impress a girl sitting a few seats away. It’s a barrage of street talk and energy but Malachi’s swagger bubble is bursyt when during the ‘call’ his phone rings. It’s his mum, assigning domestic chores. It’s a hilarious reversal, played to the hilt by the likeable Toyin Kinch. As the story progresses and his friendship with Demi (a striking Danusia Samal) develops, we see Malachi has a certain charm and sweet nature underneath the street talk and the posturing.
Scenes on the bus are interwoven with scenes in the home of elderly Phyllis (Janice McKenzie) who is a martyr to her dodgy hip and bad back. Phyllis’s world view is limited, shaped by her experience and disability but it doesn’t stop her giving daughter Angela (Sarah Manners) a hard time when she returns to Phyllis for refuge from the violent partner who decorated her face with bruises. The relationship between mother and daughter is far from easy, providing a neat contrast to the humorous scenes on board the 11. Tensions simmer and boil over in some powerfully emotional moments between the two women. Director Tessa Walker handles the changes of mood and pace effectively as De-Lahey’s script reveals what exactly is at stake.
It’s about patterns of behaviour, thinking in circles, living in a rut. Repeating mistakes and passing those mistakes onto the next generation. Will Demi be able to break the cycle? Are all men bastards?
Circles is an engaging and entertaining 65 minutes with some blistering performances from this excellent cast. While it has very much a local flavour (the Brummie accent lends itself easily to comedy), the subject matter could play anywhere: abusive relationships, domestic violence and victimhood (which is a word I have just coined!)
Catch it if you can.